Business senses a chance to reassert itself
That is the message from a business lobby that wants its voice heard after an election campaign from which it had felt excluded.
Two reports out this morning show the level of frustration and anxiety business leaders feel at a messy and damaging political process.
The head of the Institute of Directors, Stephen Martin, warned of the “disastrous consequences” of the current political uncertainty, after a survey conducted since Friday found 57% of members pessimistic about its impact on their business.
A separate survey by the Harvard Kennedy School of Business – under the auspices of fellows Ed Balls, the former shadow chancellor, and Peter Sands, the former boss of Standard Chartered bank – shows that firms are sceptical that unfettered access to the UK’s biggest export market, the EU, can easily be offset by trade relationships with new markets.
The study concludes that even a small reduction in exports to Europe of 5% would require a massive 28% increase in exports to the rest of the world.
Of the 50 companies surveyed, most highlighted practical concerns such as customs checks, access to skilled labour and the additional regulatory burdens that a split from the EU might involve.
Business leaders are hoping that – post-election – the political wind that becalmed them for many valuable weeks of Brexit negotiating preparations could be blowing back in their direction.
Business leaders were summoned to see the Business Secretary Greg Clark on Friday and although they have been tight-lipped about what was discussed, they are privately hopeful that the election aftermath will usher in a more collegiate cabinet which will take wider soundings on policy – including the hopes and fears of business.
However, any optimism that this is the right moment for business to raise its voice may be tempered by the appointment of Michael Gove as the Environment Secretary.
As a prominent campaigner for Brexit he has so far shown no sign he is in favour of watering down what business leaders consider Theresa May’s aggressive approach of leaving the single market, the customs union and her belief that no deal is better than a bad deal.